Amish move barn by hand

KALONA - One. Two. Three. Lift!

Community members, farmers and those just passing through along Highway 22 did a double take Friday as approximately 150 Amish men carried the wooden skeleton of a turkey barn along the shoulder of the roadway.

There were those like Dick Schlatter, of Kalona, who heard about the event as news of the barn moving spread throughout town.

"I was up on Main Street, and one of the guys said, 'Come up and see this phenomenon,'" Schlatter said. "I've never seen anything like this. This is something from 'Ripley's Believe it or Not.' It's the dangdest thing I've ever seen in my life. ... It's just amazing."

Starting about 9:30 a.m. Friday, the blue-denim clad crew of Amish males, young and old, ambled east along the highway to a farm owned by Randy and Joyce Billups. The couple, owners of Billups Construction, purchased the property in November and moved in the next month.

On the surrounding property, they plan to build a housing development called Sunset Hills Estates. To clear the area, they auctioned off buildings of the old farm, including the turkey barn, a machine shed and a conventional barn. Paul T. Miller purchased the turkey barn.

Bulldozers and earthmovers at the Billups' property Friday were signs of the impending development. So far, part of a new road has been cut to accommodate the 35 houses that will adorn the rolling hills about two miles east of Kalona.

"When we bought the land, we bought the buildings, as well," said Joyce Billups, holding a cup of coffee as she watched the first section of barn being carried away. "They actually all sold to Amish people."

To facilitate the move, nails that held the 160-foot-long barn together were removed to break the barn into four 80-foot-long sections. Once all the men were in place, a foreman, who followed the group along the outside of the barn, yelled "one, two, three," and the barn was lifted off the ground with nary a grunt."On west, brother," one man shouted, eliciting a right-hand turn from the crew.

Once moving, the group labored west carrying one section along the hills of the Billups property to the highway. They stopped for an occasional two-minute rest as they trudged up the steady incline of the road.

A horse and buggy led them about one mile west to the Miller farm - the barn's destination. An elder Amish man with a black-rimmed hat and a bushy, brown beard with a hint of gray limped behind the group with a red handkerchief to caution motorists.

Many passersby stopped and stared at the project, which, including a one-hour lunch break, took nearly four hours to complete. At any one time, more than 40 cars were parked along Highway 22 and Orange Avenue to marvel at the move.

One person remarked that the men carrying the barn looked like a caterpillar because of the hundreds of legs.

Tim Creif of West Liberty said that, when he first saw the large group of cars parked on the side of the road, he thought there was a car accident. With his two children, Creif said he took a break from a home-remodeling job in Kalona to purchase a camera and return to the site.

"It's going to be hard to get my kids to go back to work," he said from his pickup truck. "They think this is more fun."

Connie Hay of Mediapolis was one who just happened to be traveling on Highway 22 when she spotted the event. Hay said she was in Kalona for business and was headed back to Mediapolis with her two sons.

"It's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone - even the Amish themselves," Hay said. "It certainly shows what a lot of people can do together."